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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
07/18/2012

Accused human smuggler transported illegal aliens by charter plane

MCALLEN, Texas – A Mexican national appeared before a U.S. magistrate judge Wednesday to face charges for allegedly harboring and transporting five illegal aliens who were discovered boarding a plane at the McAllen-Miller International Airport, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

This case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Border Patrol.

A federal grand jury in McAllen issued an indictment July 10 against Jorge Luis Gallegos, 39, a citizen of Mexico, charging him with four counts of harboring and transporting illegal aliens, and conspiring to do so.

According to the criminal complaint, Gallegos was arrested June 20 near the McAllen-Miller International Airport after he was observed dropping off a small group of people at the airport. During a ramp check inspection conducted by HSI and CBP, the same five people were identified as illegal aliens and were boarding a charter plane destined for San Antonio, Texas. Gallegos had allegedly, along with other individuals, picked up the illegal aliens from the Rio Grande River before taking them to several stash locations in the area. On the same day, he drove one of the aliens to the airport to purchase the flight to San Antonio for the five aliens. He then picked up all five aliens later that day from the final stash location before dropping them off at the airport.

Gallegos has been held without bond since his June 20 arrest. He will remain in custody pending trial.

Jury selection for trial is set for September before Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa.

If convicted, Gallegos faces up to 10 years in federal prison on each count as well as a maximum $250,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Sully, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting the case.

A complaint or indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.